Have you ever watched a T.V. show and felt attached to a certain character because they were similar to you? That’s what is happening in today’s popular American television shows. Many Americans are finding an increase of characters that identify in the same way as them. The representation of race, gender, and sexuality in the media has evolved over the past few years, progressively showing more characters with diversity. With the diverse backgrounds of each character, audience members are starting to relate with characters more, which increases the enjoyment and ratings of these T.V shows. This progressive style is seen with the popular American drama series, Grey’s Anatomy. Created by Shonda Rhimes, Grey’s Anatomy aired on March 27th, 2005. Currently, the series is on its 12th season. The show is focused on a group of doctors/surgeons who start their internship at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital. The show follows these doctors through their experience in the residency program and their ability to handle their personal relationships while dealing with their heavy workload. Throughout the series, Grey’s Anatomy has evolved with its representation of diverse characters. They provide viewers with characters of all races, genders, and sexualities. Each character is unique, but for the most part, they are all viewed as equals. The show displays races that society usually assumes would not be “successful” in their careers, women in positions of power, and a variety of characters with different sexualities working confidently in a professional setting.
Grey’s Anatomy is known for its diverse cast. Throughout the whole show there is positive representation of minorities. The show has minorities characterized as strong surgeons, some are even chiefs of their specialty. As a society, a common belief is that certain races would never be able to obtain a successful life. America sees this specifically with Hispanics and Blacks. In the media, there is not too many images of successful minorities. A lot of the time viewers see them as working with what is considered “easy” part time jobs or struggling to get into a higher position. However, Grey’s Anatomy is able to move past these stereotypes and display its characters success and work ethic. For example, in season four, episode ten of Grey’s Anatomy, the Seattle Grace Hospital has to perform surgery on a white man, with a swastika tattoo. In this episode, there are only Black surgeons available at the time. So, that forces one of the doctors, Miranda Bailey, a Black female, to perform the surgery. The white male refuses to be treated by a black doctor without a white male being present. This request was solely out of fear. The patient did not trust a Black doctor to operate on him. So, Dr. Bailey has to grab one of the white male interns to assist. At the end of the successful operation, the white intern, is providing post op care when he states to the patient, “a black woman saved your life with a very personal cost.” (Rhimes, 2005). By this quote, Grey’s Anatomy is specifically pointing out how a black female surgeon was able to successfully save someone’s life. With this quote, the show is defying a stereotype linked to Black people and other minorities. They can’t be successful is said too many times throughout the media. The interaction before the surgery represents a much deeper belief that society has. According to Plos.org, a recent proposal suggests that the fields in which African Americans are underrepresented are those fields whose members believe that a spark of brilliance is required for success. Also, a recent survey of academics across 30 disciplines found that fields with a stronger focus on brilliance were also less diverse (Storage, Horne, Cimpian, & Leslie, 2016). This idea that Black people are not as intelligent; therefore, they cannot work in certain fields is discouraging. Society has a hard time seeing Black people as being successful. Usually, there has to be some odd circumstances to why the minorities are successful. With this belief, people tend to not trust minorities with getting the job done. Currently, in Grey’s Anatomy’s 12th season, Dr. Miranda Bailey is the chief of surgery. She runs the hospital. Grey’s Anatomy is showing how a black person has the ability to be in a successful position.In the beginning of Grey’s Anatomy, the representation of women was lacking. All of the positions of power belonged to men. In the very first season, episode one, Dr. Meredith Grey, one of the interns and the main character, points out the lack of women who were accepted into the residency program by saying, “only six women out of twenty” (Rhimes, 2005). This quote represents what people see in today’s culture. Whether it is through the media, or specifically in real life, women are not seen as being doctors. In the medical field, women are portrayed as having the “soft jobs,” like, nurses. However, according to BioMed Central, the percentage of females graduating from medical school has increased by up to 60 percent in most Western countries (Fischer et al., 2010). The research shows that women are more than capable of becoming doctors. Women do not have to be restricted by society’s beliefs. From the first season, Grey’s Anatomy has definitely evolved. Now, in season 12, viewers see many of the positions of power given to females. For example, viewers see Dr. Miranda Bailey as the chief of surgery, and Dr. Meredith Grey as the chief of general surgery. This aspect may seem minimal, but it is a huge deal for the representation of women. Grey’s Anatomy is able to move past the stereotype of women not being capable enough to have powerful roles in the workplace. The show provides the audience, especially young girls, with the lesson that anything is possible and females can do whatever they put their mind to as long as they work hard.
The representation of different sexualities is not something viewers see often in pop culture. Occasionally, there is a character who is a part of the LGBT+ community, but they are never the main character. Viewers do not get to grow with the character or watch as they go through their relationships and hardships. The absence of representation can be detrimental to the LGBT+ community. In the article, “A Catalyst for Resilience in LGBTQ youth,” the author claims that, “positive media representations may mediate negative experiences and foster self-esteem” (Craig, Mclnroy, McCready, & Alaggia, 2015). The representation of the LGBT+ community in the media could possibly help defeat certain stereotypes that pertain to people a part of that group. In addition, society has a belief that in a professional setting, such as a workplace, having a different sexuality than others may not be well known throughout the workplace. People do not imagine a successful surgeon to be open about their sexuality without it putting a strain on their relationship with their colleagues. This is not the case for Grey’s Anatomy. For example, Grey’s Anatomy has two main characters that represent different sexualities. Dr. Callie Torres, and Dr. Arizona Robbins. Dr. Torres is bisexual and Dr. Robbins is lesbian. Viewers see these two characters in a professional setting, working in a hospital, confident within their sexuality. Dr. Torres and Dr. Robbins were once married and they also had other relationships throughout the show. With all of that, they never had to deal with being called “unprofessional” or any other harmful terms. Their colleagues respected them and did not treat them any differently. Grey’s Anatomy has made it a point to have characters experience with their sexuality. Also, characters that do identify as something else than straight, are main characters viewers see recurring. The show allows its audience to watch these characters develop and become comfortable with their sexuality. Grey’s Anatomy’s representation of these two characters who are not what is considered “normal” in today’s society is a big step in the right direction. This representation allows viewers to relate and understand more about the characters, but more importantly themselves. Having two characters being a part of the LGBT community allows viewers to see that they are normal, they can have a regular life, and they can work confidently in a professional setting.
Grey’s Anatomy, over its past twelve seasons, has progressively shown more characters of diverse backgrounds. The show has portrayed all races in a successful manner, women in powerful positions, and people of the LGBT+ community working in a professional setting. This representation has a huge effect on society’s beliefs. If people are able to view this progressive style in the media, they will be more prone to changing their beliefs and attitudes towards certain types of people. This representation brings a positive light upon people that need it. Minorities, women, and the LGBT+ community are not being represented that often in the way that they should be. By setting these types of people up, all of the being equal, it forces society to challenge the norm and think outside of the box. The representation means more to minorities, women, and the LGBT+ community. This show is portraying them in ways that allows them to achieve anything they desire. They are not being put down anymore. They are not being discouraged. The continuous amount of encouraging representation in the media is setting an example for the youth that shows them they can accomplish anything, even if society sets up obstacles.